Each year the Faculty of the Victor Chang Institute Research Institute hold a symposium around a speciality discipline. The theme for 2016 symposium was From Cardiovascular Development to Regenerative Medicine and covered topics ranging from cardiac developmental biology, cardiogenomic and epigenetics to the potential of stem cell and regenerative medicine to treat cardiac diseases.
In addition to nine invited keynote international speakers, the Symposium was attended by close to 130 delegates from around Australia with the main aim of allowing Australian researchers to hear first-hand the discoveries and reasoning of internationally acclaimed researchers in their field.
Australian senior and mid-career researchers are also given the opportunity to have their research critiqued by these international experts. The size of the conference was large enough to provide a comprehensive research program whilst allowing interactions between and during sessions, and at the poster and social events. Delegates praised the inspirational quality and excellence of the research presented at the meeting.
This year the VCCRI symposium attracted nine international keynote speakers including several from the Fondation Leducq (FLQ) Transatlantic Networks of Excellence Program:
- Professor Ahsan Husain (FLQ), Emory University, Atlanta (USA). Princesses’ Lecture: Thyroid hormone pathway and cardiac growth.
- Professor Elly Tanaka (FLQ), Technische Universität Dresden (Germany). The relevance of connective tissues to regeneration.
- Professor Nenad Bursac (FLQ), Duke University, Durham (USA). Bioengineering cardiac regeneration.
- Professor Bernhard Kuhn (FLQ), Children’s Hospital Of Pittsburg (USA). Mechanisms of cardiomyocyte proliferation and differentiation.
- Professor Didier Stainier (FLQ), Max Planck Institute For Heart And Lung Research (Germany). Cardiac maturation in zebrafish.
- Professor Eldad Tzahor (FLQ), Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot (Israel). Cardiac regenerative strategies.
- Professor Jose Xavier Neto, Brazilian Biosciences National Laboratory, San Paolo (Brazil). Beating back: a search for the evolutionary origins of hearts in time of Zika.
- Professor Karina Yaniv, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot (Israel). Building blood and lymphatic vessels in vertebrates: insights from zebrafish.
- Professor Antoon Moorman, Academic Medical Centre (Netherlands). Why do cold-blooded vertebrates have a spongy cardiac ventricle and warm-blooded vertebrates a compact ventricle wall? (sponsored by The Company of Biologists, UK)
A highlight of the Symposium was the keynote Princesses’ Lecture, presented by Professor Ahsan Husain, who spoke of his discovery that adult mammalian hearts undergo a proliferative burst in pre-adolescence that one day may show how adults hearts could be encouraged to regenerate after injury. Professor Husain’s recent work focused on the role of thyroid hormone in mediating this process. The annual Princesses’ Lecture is held in honour of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who was VCCRI's guest of honour in 1995, and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, who opened the research building in 2008. The Princesses’ Lecture and social event was sponsored by Cytocentrics.
The program also included a Public Lecture where members of the general public were invited to an afternoon of lectures from various experts in the field on a topic related to the Symposium. This year the theme was Stem Cells – Hype and Hope. The event was sponsored by ClearView and was opened by its Managing Director Simon Swanson. Speakers included Elly Tanaka (international Keynote Symposium speaker) who outlined the general principles of tissue regeneration, and David Winlaw (sponsored by HeartKids) discussed how stem cells and bioengineered conduits might be used in the future to treat congenital heart disease. Melanie Thompson, an academic and patient, related stories about her interactions with the commercial stem cell sector, and Megan Munsie, from Stem Cells Australia, discussed some of the issues and traps for potential patients seeking stem cell therapies. Also speaking were clinicians James Chong, Westmead Institute for Medical Research and John Moore, St Vincents Hospital, discussing role of stem cells in clinical research and in practice.
The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute 17th International Symposium and Princesses’ Lecture was held on 6-8 November in conjunction with St Vincent’s Hospital and incorporated the annual cardiac theme meeting of Stem Cells Australia and the annual meeting of the Australian Network of Cardiac and Vascular Developmental Biologists. The Chair of the Symposium Organising Committee was Professor Richard Harvey.